Parks and Recreation are Essential

Creek trees and Puget Sound.

This spring and summer, you likely saw a lot more people enjoying our local parks. Even though playgrounds and sports courts were closed, people of all ages were taking walks and enjoying the fresh air. Where else were we going to go?

Even during the first phases of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, public health officials encouraged people to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Not only because it was less risky than crowded, indoor spaces, but because there are physical and mental health benefits to being outside and enjoying nature.

“While our parks were seeing more visitors than ever, we had to make some budget reductions that impacted our parks, including eliminating seasonal employees, irrigation, and the operation of the Town Square splash pad, and sports fields,” said Carolyn Hope, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services (PaRCS) Director. “Our parks and facilities maintenance staff are working very hard this year to keep up with mowing, garage, and park repairs with a very thin team. They do a great job with a positive attitude.”

Ignacio Robledo and Odalis De Los Santos from the PaRCS Maintenance Division get ready to mow. Photo credit: City of Burien.

Adapting programs to meet new needs

The PaRCS department reinvented ways to provide recreational opportunities for the community by offering virtual programming more targeted to our residents’ needs.

“Although some recreation programs were canceled immediately, staff never stopped working to determine how to best meet the needs of our community,” said Hope. “I am impressed by the passion and creativity of staff that had to act quickly and find new ways to accomplish their work.”

This spring, PaRCS staff reached out to past program participants through surveys and phone calls to learn how they were doing and what they needed. Staff called 300 past program participants over the age of 60 to offer resources and to evaluate their desire for future programming. More than 60 percent expressed a need to talk to another person about resources they may need and to relieve social isolation. Meeting this need is the impetus behind the Burien Call Chain program.

Data was also gathered via a questionnaire and through calling families of youth in recreation programs.

“Families told us they are having a hard time with learning at home and would like opportunities for their children to interact with the afterschool staff,” said Casey Stanley, Recreation Manager. “Some families mentioned that food and nutrition resources would be valuable.”

Staff worked with Highline Public Schools to evaluate whether there was demand for additional daycare needs for essential workers. Staff also maintained connections with youth through virtual meetups. The department provided summer camps for families that need daycare support and offered a summer camp scholarship fund, which reduced the cost to families who needed assistance by 82 percent.

Summer camp looked different in 2020, with masks and physical distancing in place. Photo credit: City of Burien.

Burien Call Chain Program

The new Burien Call Chain program is an opportunity for you to help reach out to community members in need of conversation and compassion. As many of our neighbors are isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, Burien Call Chain volunteers can lessen feelings of isolation through weekly conversation, as well as provide support and information when services may be needed.

Training will be provided.

Interested or want to learn more? Contact the Burien Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department at parksinfo@burienwa.gov or call (206) 988-3700.

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